Alumna Sara Gabai Publishes LGBTQI Digital Media Activism and Counter-Hate Speech in Italy

John Cabot University is pleased to announce that LGBTQI Digital Media Activism and Counter-Hate Speech in Italy, a book by alumna Sara Gabai, will be published in April 2022 (Routledge). The book investigates digital media activism practices, and how, through artifacts of political engagement, activists are championing social change through non-violent communications.

Sara graduated from JCU in 2010 with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in English Literature. She then went on to earn a Master’s in Gender, Media and Culture from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in Human Rights and Peace Studies from Mahidol University in Thailand. Sara currently works as Communication Expert at EU SWITCH-Asia Programme in Bangkok City, Thailand.

JCU’s Web Communications staff recently interviewed Sara.

Sara Gabai

Sara Gabai

Congratulations on the upcoming publication of LGBTQI Digital Media Activism and Counter-Hate Speech in Italy! How did you first become interested in this topic? What inspired you to write this book?
In the past two decades, Italy has experienced a significant rise in the number of recorded episodes of hate crime and incitement to hatred against individuals based on ethnic, racial, religious, and sexual grounds. 70 percent of Italian LGBTQI people think that the government is not effectively combating hate, prejudice, and intolerance towards the community. This is also reflected in the Italian parliament’s rejection of the Zan bill, which contained measures to prevent and counteract discrimination and violence on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. In a context where the voices of LGBTQI activists are still often marginalized and symbolically annihilated from both online and offline political and public discourses, as a researcher-activist, it would have been impossible for me to remain silent.

While substantial work is being done to promote and protect human rights and fight discrimination in Italy, the dominant narratives that are being mainstreamed nationally and transnationally (more than ever through social media) are always centered on haters and politicians’ hate speech discourses rather than on LGBTQI peace activists and their achievements. The need to reclaim the voices of Italian LGBTQI activists and make their resistance visible inspired me to write this book. My plan is to also organize several virtual events in which dialogue and exchanges can be promoted between key Italian activists and youths/future activists.

How did you manage to work full-time while pursuing a Ph.D. program? What challenges did you have to overcome?
Working full-time and pursuing a Ph.D. program while also having a social life may be difficult but it is not impossible. As a matter of fact, striving to attain work-life balance is extremely important. I have always conceived my Ph.D. as a good opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills to apply to my work. “Research” and “practice” must necessarily go together, this is especially true when dealing with human rights issues. However, oftentimes academia is disconnected from the real world and vice versa. In every important endeavor, challenges will always be on the path. My advice is: always choose what you are passionate about. Passion and purpose are what got me through the challenges I have encountered.

You are currently Communication Expert at EU SWITCH-Asia Programme in Bangkok City, Thailand. What does your position entail?
SWITCH-Asia was launched in 2007 as part of the European Union’s priority to support 24 countries in Asia and Central Asia to transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient, and more circular economy, promoting economic growth while decoupling it from environmental degradation.

In times of growing concern about global warming, environmental degradation, pollution, deforestation, and resource depletion, communicating effectively and raising awareness about the importance of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) and sustainable living remain challenging tasks not only in Asia but also globally. When I started working in the field of sustainability, I realized how little accurate information is available when communicating about SCP practices in key thematic sectors such as fashion and apparel sustainability, sustainable housing and buildings, food waste, plastics and waste management, and responsible tourism, among others. Progress on sustainability issues is still being held back by communication that lacks either strategic rigor or creativity. In my role as Communication Expert, I have been committed to supporting the Programme and our stakeholders to make sustainability accessible and understandable for everyone, providing mentorship on how to design and implement effective communication strategies to drive behavior and social change.

Who were your mentors at JCU? How have they accompanied you on your journey since graduation?
Professor Antonio Lopez has always been a great source of inspiration at different stages of my academic and professional life. Our interests are interconnected and still today, a decade after my graduation, I apply his teachings and those of my other JCU professors into my lectures, training programs, seminars, research, and practice.

Pre-order the book LGBTQI Digital Media Activism and Counter-Hate Speech in Italy